Amazon.com Inc. moved a step closer to possibly settling two European Union antitrust probes into how the US ecommerce giant uses rivals’ sales data and whether it unfairly favors its own products, after proposing remedies to appease EU concerns.
The European Commission said on Thursday that it’s asking rivals for their feedback on a proposed deal in two antitrust probes looking into Amazon’s use of non-public data from sellers on its marketplace and “a possible bias in granting sellers access to its Buy Box and its Prime program.”
An EU agreement would take some of the heat off Amazon as national watchdogs in Europe start to ramp up their antitrust scrutiny of the US giant. Germany’s Federal Cartel
Office this month said Amazon should be subject to tough new antitrust rules due to its market dominance and Britain’s competition regulator said it’s probing whether Amazon is abusing its dominance in its UK Marketplace.
The commission said its preliminary view was that rules in place around the way the Buy Box and Prime are run “unduly” favor Amazon’s own retail business, as well as marketplace sellers that use Amazon’s logistics and delivery services. The EU said this “bias could harm other sellers. “
Amazon’s settlement offer includes a commitment to stop using data on independent sellers on its marketplace for its competing retail business, and “to apply equal treatment to all sellers when ranking their offers for the purposes of the selection of the winner for a “buy box,” where Amazon highlights sellers of a particular product.
Once adopted, the proposed remedies would be valid for five years and cover all of Amazon’s “current and future” marketplaces in Europe. They would exclude Italy for remedies concerning Buy Box and Prime following a decision by the competition authority there in November. Rivals can comment until September 9 the EU said.
The Brussels-based commission started probing Amazon in 2019 over concerns the firm’s position allowed it to spot best-selling products and start stocking the same thing itself. It laid out these concerns in more detail in a so-called statement of objections a year later. On the same day, the EU announced a second probe into how Amazon picks products for a prominent “buy box that drives sales and may push retailers to use its own logistics and delivery services.
Tech giants such as Amazon are facing sweeping changes to how they operate in the EU with a new law, the so-called Digital Markets Act, that paves the way for multibillion euro fines and acquisition bans for the worst transgressors.
“While we have serious concerns about the Digital Markets Act unfairly targeting Amazon and a few other US companies, and disagree with several conclusions the European
Commission made, we have engaged constructively with the Commission to address their concerns,” Amazon said in a statement.
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